« PredošláPokračovať »
Oh! by this cherished
that she has not been able to extinguish But turn to me. in me the very power of delineating sad
Of woven hair, which thou wilt not
Turn, as 'twere but the memory
And not my scornèd self who prayed to
NAPLES, Dec. 20, 1818.
ROSALIND, HELEN AND HER CHILD
Scene, the Shore of the Lake of Como
COME hither, my sweet Rosalind.
'Tis long since thou and I have met;
And yet methinks it were unkind
Those moments to forget.
Come sit by me. I see thee stand
By this lone lake, in this far land,
Thy loose hair in the light wind flying,
Thy sweet voice to each tone of even
United, and thine eyes replying
To the hues of yon fair heaven.
Come, gentle friend: wilt sit by me?
And be as thou wert wont to be
Ere we were disunited?
None doth behold us now: the power
That led us forth at this lone hour
Will be but ill requited
If thou depart in scorn: oh! come,
And talk of our abandoned home.
Remember, this is Italy,
And we are exiles. Talk with me
Of that our land, whose wilds and floods,
Barren and dark although they be,
Were dearer than these chestnut woods:
Those heathy paths, that inland stream,
And the blue mountains, shapes which
Like wrecks of childhood's sunny dream:
Which that we have abandoned now,
Weighs on the heart like that remorse
Which altered friendship leaves. I seek
No more our youthful intercourse.
That cannot be ! Rosalind, speak,
Speak to me. Leave me not.-When
morn did come,
When evening fell upon our common home,
Is it a dream, or do I see
And hear frail Helen? I would flee
Thy tainting touch; but former years
Arise, and bring forbidden tears;
And my o'erburthened memory
Seeks yet its lost repose in thee.
I share thy crime. I cannot choose
But weep for thee: mine own strange
But seldom stoops to such relief :
Nor ever did I love thee less,
Though mourning o'er thy wickedness
Even with a sister's woe. I knew
What to the evil world is due,
And therefore sternly did refuse
To link me with the infamy
Of one so lost as Helen. Now
Bewildered by my dire despair,
Wondering I blush, and weep that thou
Should'st love me still,-thou only !—
Let us sit on that gray stone,
Till our mournful talk be done.
Alas! not there; I cannot bear
The murmur of this lake to hear.
A sound from there, Rosalind dear,
Which never yet I heard elsewhere
But in our native land, recurs,
Even here where now we meet. It stirs
Too much of suffocating sorrow!
In the dell of yon dark chestnut wood
Is a stone seat, a solitude
When for one hour we parted,-do not Less like our own.
The ghost of peace
Will not desert this spot. To-morrow,
I would not chide thee, though thy If thy kind feelings should not cease,
faith is broken :
We may sit here.
Close to the little river.
Mamma; it leads behind those trees To a stone seat beside a spring,
Yes I know:
I was bewildered. Kiss me, and be gay,
Dear boy why do you sob?
I do not know: But it might break any one's heart to
You and the lady cry so bitterly.
Henry, and play with Lilla till I come.
We only cried with joy to see each other;
We are quite merry now: Good-night.
Lifted a sudden look upon his mother,
And in the gleam of forced and hollow
Which lightened o'er her face, laughed
with the glee
Of light and unsuspecting infancy,
And whispered in her ear, Bring home
That sweet strange lady-friend."
off he flew,
But stopt, and beckoned with a meaning smile,
Where the road turned. Pale Rosalind the while,
Hiding her face, stood weeping silently.
It was a vast and antique wood,
Thro' which they took their way;
And the gray shades of evening
O'er that green wilderness did fling
Still deeper solitude.
In silence then they took the way
Beneath the forest's solitude.
Pursuing still the path that wound
The vast and knotted trees around
Thro' which slow shades were wandering,
To a deep lawny dell they came,
In the light of his own loveliness;
It is a gentle child, my friend. Go And the birds that in the fountain dip
Their plumes, with fearless fellowship
Above and round him wheel and hover.
The fitful wind is heard to stir
One solitary leaf on high;
The chirping of the grasshopper
There is emotion
Fills every pause.
In all that dwells at noontide here:
Then, thro' the intricate wild wood,
A maze of life and light and motion
Is woven. But there is stillness now:
Gloom, and the trance of Nature now :
The snake is in his cave asleep;
The birds are on the branches dreaming:
Only the shadows creep :
Only the glow-worm is gleaming :
Only the owls and the nightingales
Wake in this dell when daylight fails,
And gray shades gather in the woods:
And the owls have all fled far away
In a merrier glen to hoot and play,
For the moon is veiled and sleeping now.
The accustomed nightingale still broods
On her accustomed bough,
O'er which the columned wood did frame
A roofless temple, like the fane
Where, ere new creeds could faith obtain,
Man's early race once knelt beneath
The overhanging deity.
O'er this fair fountain hung the sky,
Now spangled with rare stars. The
The pale snake, that with eager breath
Creeps here his noontide thirst to slake,
Is beaming with many a mingled hue,
Shed from yon dome's eternal blue,
When he floats on that dark and lucid
But she is mute; for her false mate Has fled and left her desolate.
This silent spot tradition old
Had peopled with the spectral dead.
For the roots of the speaker's hair felt
And stiff, as with tremulous lips he told That a hellish shape at midnight led The ghost of a youth with hoary hair, And sate on the seat beside him there, Till a naked child came wandering by, When the fiend would change to a lady
A fearful tale! The truth was worse:
For here a sister and a brother
Had solemnised a monstrous curse,
Meeting in this fair solitude:
For beneath yon very sky,
Had they resigned to one another
Body and soul. The multitude,
Tracking them to the secret wood,
Tore limb from limb their innocent child,
And stabbed and trampled on its mother;
But the youth, for God's most holy grace,
A priest saved to burn in the market-
Duly at evening Helen came
To this lone silent spot,
From the wrecks of a tale of wilder
So much of sympathy to borrow As soothed her own dark lot.
Duly each evening from her home,
With her fair child would Helen come
To sit upon that antique seat,
While the hues of day were pale;
And the bright boy beside her feet
Now lay, lifting at intervals
His broad blue eyes on her;
Now, where some sudden impulse calls
Following. He was a gentle boy
And in all gentle sports took joy;
Oft in a dry leaf for a boat,
With a small feather for a sail,
His fancy on that spring would float,
If some invisible breeze might stir
Its marble calm and Helen smiled
But I could smile, and I could sleep,
Though with a self-accusing heart.
In morning's light, in evening's gloom,
I watched, and would not thence de-
My husband's unlamented tomb.
My children knew their sire was gone,
But when I told them,-"he is dead,"
They laughed aloud in frantic glee,
They clapped their hands and leaped
Answering each other's ecstasy
With many a prank and merry shout.
But I sat silent and alone,
Wrapped in the mock of mourning
They laughed, for he was dead: but I
Sate with a hard and tearless eye,
And with a heart which would deny
The secret joy it could not quell,
Low muttering o'er his loathed name;
Till from that self-contention came
Remorse where sin was none; a hell
Which in pure spirits should not dwell.
I'll tell thee truth. He was a man
Hard, selfish, loving only gold,
Yet full of guile: his pale eyes ran
With tears, which each some falsehood
And oft his smooth and bridled tongue
Would give the lie to his flushing cheek:
He was a coward to the strong:
He was a tyrant to the weak,
On whom his vengeance he would wreak :
For scorn, whose arrows search the heart,
From many a stranger's eye would dart,
And on his memory cling, and follow
His soul to its home so cold and hollow.
He was a tyrant to the weak,
And we were such, alas the day!
Oft, when my little ones at play,
Were in youth's natural lightness gay,
Or if they listened to some tale
Of travellers, or of fairy land,-
When the light from the wood-fire's
Flashed on their faces,--if they heard
Or thought they heard upon the stair
His footstep, the suspended word
Died on my lips: we all grew pale:
The babe at my bosom was hushed with
If it thought it heard its father near; And my two wild boys would near my knee
Cling, cowed and cowering fearfully.
I'll tell thee truth: I loved another.
His name in my ear was ever ringing,
His form to my brain was ever clinging:
Yet if some stranger breathed that name,
My lips turned white, and my heart beat
My nights were once haunted by dreams of flame,
My days were dim in the shadow cast
By the memory of the same!
Day and night, day and night,
He was my breath and life and light,
For three short years, which soon were
On the fourth, my gentle mother
Led me to the shrine, to be
His sworn bride eternally.
And now we stood on the altar stair, When my father came from a distant land,
And with a loud and fearful cry
Rushed between us suddenly.
I saw the stream of his thin gray hair,
I saw his lean and lifted hand,
And heard his words,-and live!
Wherefore do I live?" Hold, hold!”
He cried,—“ I tell thee 'tis her brother!
Thy mother, boy, beneath the sod
Of yon churchyard rests in her shroud
I am now weak, and pale, and old:
We were once dear to one another,
I and that corpse! Thou art our child!"
Then with a laugh both long and wild
The youth upon the pavement fell:
They found him dead! All looked on
The spasms of my despair to see:
But I was calm. I went away:
I was clammy-cold like clay!
I did not weep: I did not speak:
But day by day, week after week,
I walked about like a corpse alive!
Alas! sweet friend, you must believe
This heart is stone: it did not break.
My father lived a little while,
But all might see that he was dying,
He smiled with such a woeful smile!
When he was in the churchyard lying
Among the worms, we grew quite poor,
So that no one would give us bread:
My mother looked at me, and said
Faint words of cheer, which only meant
That she could die and be content;
So I went forth from the same church
To another husband's bed.
And this was he who died at last,
When weeks and months and years had
Through which I firmly did fulfil
My duties, a devoted wife,
With the stern step of vanquished will,
Walking beneath the night of life,
Whose hours extinguished, like slow
Falling for ever, pain by pain,
The very hope of death's dear rest;
Which, since the heart within my breast
Of natural life was dispossest,
It's strange sustainer there had been.
What was this pulse so warm and free?
Alas! I knew it could not be
To a sleep more deep and so more sweet
Than a baby's rocked on its nurse's knee,
I lived a living pulse then beat
Beneath my heart that awakened me.
I wept to think how hard it were
To kill my babe, and take from it
The sense of light, and the warm air,
And my own fond and tender care,
And love and smiles; ere I knew yet
That these for it might, as for me,
Be the masks of a grinning mockery.
And haply, I would dream, 'twere sweet
To feed it from my faded breast,
Or mark my own heart's restless beat
When flowers were dead, and grass was Rock it to its untroubled rest,
And watch the growing soul beneath
Dawn in faint smiles; and hear its
Upon my mother's grave,-that mother
Whom to outlive, and cheer, and make
My wan eyes glitter for her sake,
Was my vowed task, the single care
Which once gave life to my despair,—
When she was a thing that did not stir
And the crawling worms were cradling
Half interrupted by calm sighs,
And search the depth of its fair eyes
For long departed memories!
And so I lived till that sweet load
Was lightened. Darkly forward flowed
The stream of years, and on it bore
Two shapes of gladness to my sight;
Two other babes, delightful more
In my lost soul's abandoned night,
Than their own country ships may be
O Helen, none can ever tell
The joy it was to weep once more!